Archive for February, 2016


meanwhile, back at the ranch…

These past few days I have been looking through the various draft chapters of the volume which will present the Crossroads findings. Today I have been reading about cowries at nooru bangu, see here, a site we studied in Bénin; the folded strip roulettes from Kantoro; and charcoal.

There has been a lot of progress and Florence and I now have a substantial set of papers as well as some pretty nifty illustrations of our various finds and data on 42000 sherds or so.

It means looking back over the past 5 years and all we have learnt…





what is archaeology

Back in Male’, we were asked to deliver a session to secondary schoolchildren and to colleagues from the Heritage sector, concerning our work.

The session, held at the National Museum, was well attended and the question and answer panel raised some interesting points.






At Veyvah, as well as excavation, we carried out surface collections, focusing on what the locals call the ‘Old Road’.

All was going fine

but then the weather turned…


We nonetheless acquired a sizeable pottery assemblage from these units.

Predominantly the coarse orange ware with sharply everted rims, often grooved.

20160219_114623_resized (1)




As I mentioned earlier, one reason we chose Veyvah for our work was that large parts of the island are uninhabited.


Veyvah from a distance

On the ground, this means dense vegetal cover obscuring a lot of the archaeology. The roads cleared through the forest are the only place you see surface pottery, for instance.


We targeted various areas.





Site 4

Our fourth enquiry took us to the island of Veyvah. We chose this island because an inventory made of the Maldives’ stone mosques in the run-up for a World Heritage application speak of a mosque there alleged to be 400 years old, one of the few surviving coral stone mosques in the country. Also the 2011 Heritage Inventory identifies several remains of historical interest there – a cemetery, a large banyan (nikagas) and a bathing tank. Thirdly, it was clear from aerial photographs that the modern settlement was largely restricted to the northern end of the island whereas the reported heritage was at the centre and south, so we stood a good chance of finding undisturbed archaeology. Finally, Veyvah sits close to the only two channels allowing access into the atoll from the east, and its neighbour is an island which Ragupathy and Mohammed connect with cowries (based on the name).

Much vegetation here!


The mosque is a fine coral stone building

Traces of former structures everywhere, as well as many gravestones.

And potsherd scatters


The December 2004 tsunami was mentioned to us repeatedly; this atoll was very affected. We were told that on Veyvah the freshwater lense was contaminated and the remains of past structures and walls were damaged and displaced.



6.45 in veyvah

Sitting in front of the shop selling water and watching the school run unfold.

We have been here three days and are about to start our last day’s digging.

Cleaning up before starting our first unit


Many piles of rubble coral stone testify to past collapsed buildings.



But also splendid standing buildings.

More later – raining!



off to site 4

We leave Malé now to travel to our fourth site. Having visited locations in Haa Alifu, North Malé and Raa atolls, now we head to Meemu atoll.

Looking forward to reporting back from there.

Until then, a big thank you to all the new readers who have accessed this blog from the Maldives. Maldivian readers took over in numbers from our usual stalwarts the UK and Belgium last week! Special mention also to our reader(s) from Burundi, Taiwan, Greece, Norway and Nigeria (don’t worry, I don’t know who you are – just what country you are in).





On the island of Maamigili on the western side of Raa atoll is a resort which, as well as the usual Maldivian offerings of white beaches, greenery and beach villas, highlights the archaeological materials that were discovered when the resort was developed. It operates a museum under licence from the Maldivian Department of Heritage and it also showcases fine art and ethnographic materials. This includes a traditional house, salvaged from the island of Kandholhudhoo which was devastated in the 2004 tsunami.

We had been asked to go over to record, clean, and advise on the remains. These include two bathing tanks (vevu) made of sandstone blocs (veliga), coralstone grave markers, and at least three quadrilinear coralstone structures resembling tombs. All this lies in the central area of the island where no resort development has taken place, but routine works elsewhere on the island (plumbing, etc.) regularly uncover pottery and other past remains.

We were shown around by the collections manager, Niyaz, and given a tour of the displays situated in the entrance lobby

Ethnographic pots – bought from Sri Lanka – at the right, archaeological pot at the left


This also gave us an opportunity to study some of the 120kg of cowries that had been recovered at the site.

A group of visitors, very interested in the Buddhist connections





maritime practices

Interviews: cowrie and other shellfishing, boatbuilding.




Inguraidhoo, Fainu and Kinolhas: the land viewed from the sea

ing, f, kinol

Collecting cowries


on the footsteps of ibn Battuta

When ibn Battuta arrived in the Maldives he went ashore at Kinolhas, ‘a fine island containing many mosques‘.

It does look like the kind of place you would want to stop:


People locally have a clear idea of where the settlement might have been in ibn Battuta’s time. Unfortunately, not much remains of the built heritage. The Heritage Inventory 2011 had mentioned the existence of a shrine to a respected person known as Uthman Thakurufaan, a mosque, and two marble tombstones with fine carvings and calligraphy dated to September 1480 AD. Since marble is not available in Maldives the slabs were thought to have been brought to Maldives from abroad, perhaps from Gujurat, and the inscription likely to have been written by someone well versed in the technique overseas.

However all that remains of this is more in the realm of archaeology than of standing structures.


On to Fainu, sometimes described at ibn Battuta’s stopping place – indeed, there isn’t much between the two islands:

fainu and kinolhas

Fainu to the left, Kinolhas to the right.

Plenty of archaeology at Fainu too – we were shown around by knowledgeable members of the island Council.

Shiura working the phone – always busy setting up our next visit


And on to Inguraidhoo, which is etymologically linked to ginger – so we wondered whether it might have a trade connection, but nobody there could tell us the origin of the name. The old mosque has been replaced by a new one and coralstone rubble is everywhere.


About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

Please log in often, comment and/or subscribe to keep up to date with what's happening.

Blog Stats

  • 37,528 hits

Recent posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. There will be a special prize for the 50th subscriber

Join 165 other followers


February 2016